The taste of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth can be bitter. That’s what happened to Billy Hunter, who heads the NBA Players Association. He suggested he might file a lawsuit to stop the NBA’s plans to hold next year’s All Star weekend in New Orleans.
Hunter expressed concerns over New Orleans’ police force and its ability to deal with crime, which is a serious concern in the Big Easy.
Yet for all its problems, New Orleans seems expert at one thing: holding a party.
The city just handled Mardi Gras, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, with a minimum of problems.
By contrast, as estimated 85,000 attended All Star weekend in Las Vegas, where problems developed.
New Orleans also isn’t one of the nation’s top convention destinations for nothing.
Hunter told Newsday that, “If the union is not convinced that the city can accommodate the All-Star game, it’s an issue that will be subject to litigation between the union and the league.”
Hunter later tried to backtrack. He said he was speaking in hypothetical terms and would only go to such extremes if he thought the safety of his players was in jeopardy. His comments came in the wake of Vegas’ perceived problems.
There were 403 arrests during the weekend, 172 of which were residents of Las Vegas. The most serious incident was a shooting allegedly involving people associated with Adam “Pac Man” Jones, the NFL player.
Derek Fisher, the union’s president, sounded offended that the NBA and its players were blamed for the problems:
“Was it crowded? Was there a lot of people? Of course, but all the things related to the NBA and the players association were planned out.
“They were at secured venues where you had to have either a special invitation or have your name on a list.
“If there were one or two incidents, I don’t know if you could ever avoid that. We can’t control strip clubs and large gatherings and other places that aren’t NBA venues.”
LACK OF PARITY?
Bobcats owner Bob Johnson talked recently on a sensitive subject: about why the eight NBA owners who signed a letter to the NBA that says the NBA’s revenue-sharing system makes it tough for small-market teams.
Johnson told the Charlotte Observer: “If you spend up to the cap, then small-market teams spend 81 to 82 percent of their income on players.
“That’s almost impossible for a market to be profitable. The average for the (larger) teams is 57 percent of their income is spent on players.
“So how does the league create an environment so that every team has an equal opportunity to succeed?”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers chartered a plane and went to Austin for Dennis Johnson’s memorial service last week.
“It was absolutely sensational,’’ the coach said.
“It was awesome. Nothing you want to go to, but it was really a nice ceremony.’’
At one point, two players on the team Johnson coached spoke. “They talked about Dennis getting on them, and he was overloading them at times with information,’’ Rivers said.
“And as it went on they started realizing maybe he knows what he’s talking about.’’
It was also revealed at the service that DJ’s last words were “Catch me.’’ “The pastor did a great little thing about that,’’ said Rivers, “telling the kids, ‘Did you catch the things he’s trying to teach you?’ ’’
Mike D’Antoni admits the Suns goofed when they traded their first-round pick in 2004 to the Bulls.
The Suns had the No. 7 pick, but gave it up even though they could have had Andre Igoudala or Luol Deng cheap.
Moreover, a few weeks later they gave a $43 million contract to Quentin Richardson, a deal that complicated matters when they came close — but failed in the end — to sign Joe Johnson to a long-term deal.
The Suns didn’t think Igoudala would be there at No. 7. He was. The 76ers took him at No. 9.
“I think we shouldn’t have passed on him a few years back,” D’Antoni said. “We had a chance to get him but we didn’t think he would be there and we sold our pick, so we’re kind of eating crow on that one.
“He’s turned out to be a great player. He’ll be a very good player all the way through. He plays hard, he’s rangy. He’s the type of player that we love. He’ll be a valuable piece for those guys.”
The last word
“Speed is definitely the way most teams are going. The rules against hand-checking have forced teams to go after fast, versatile and athletic players who can create off the dribble and get to the basket. The game has gotten faster, especially in the West. Speed is in.”
TRAIL BLAZERS COACH
Behind the times
A Magic fan who wants a coaching change in Orlando has launched www.firebrianhill.org. The coach says he not only hasn’t seen the site but that he’s never logged onto any Web site before in his life. And he said he doesn’t spend any time on the computer because he never learned to type.
Playing a role
Flip Saunders could tell Sam Mitchell had a coaching future when the Raptors coach played for him in Minnesota.
“Sam was a 14-year veteran and had been a starter,” Saunders said.
“He was on the bench, we were up by 10 with a minute and a half to play. He came over and said, ‘Put me in for Kevin Garnett, so KG doesn’t get hurt.’
“That’s why he’s a coach. He understands what it is to play a role.”
Did you know?
• The Nets are 22-4 vs. the Knicks (including playoffs) since Jason Kidd joined them.
• The Mavericks’ 21-6 road record this season is better than every team’s home record except for the Suns (who are 22-6 at home).
• The Suns are 23-8 on the road.
• Steve Francis, whose career has been in steep decline, turned 30 the day after teammate Stephon Marbury. The Knicks owe Francis, who hasn’t played much this season, $33 million.
Richard Jefferson hopes to return to the Nets by the end of their six-game, 10-day road trip as they make a playoffs push.